Books for Talking About Whatifs and Worries

Aug 21, 2022

It’s Back-to-School season, the perfect time for talking about worries and whatifs. One of the most important things to highlight when tackling this topic is that EVERYONE has them. Not everyone talks about them or has tools for them, but we all experience worry thoughts.

In my podcast this week (coming out August 25) I’ll be sharing: 

3 Steps to Building Tools for Worries & Whatifs

  1. Identify them (label them)
  2. Learn about them (understand them)
  3. Build Tools for Them

As a part of this process I recommend supporting your conversations with picture books.


Picture Book Recommendations for Worries & Whatifs


The Whatifs by Emily Kilore & Zoe Persico

This story focusses on Cora, who has a lot of whatif thoughts running through her mind. Many of her worry thoughts are ‘grim’ and hold her back and bog her down. A lot of them are also things she has created in her mind versus things that might actually happen. This is an important part of helping children understand whatif thoughts. Not all whatifs are ‘true thoughts’ some (many) are ‘story thoughts.’ 

As the story progresses, Cora meets a friend who shows her that some whatifs hold possibility, that not all whatifs are negative. I love using the characters in this book to show that we all have some inner thoughts happening and that some of those thoughts are worry/whatif thoughts.


Whimsy’s Heavy Things by Julie Kraulis

This story is about a little girl who is trying to get away from her worries/fears. She tries to hide them, send them away, make them go away, but no matter what she does, they are still there. In fact they are ever present and weighing her down.

There is such an amazing connection here to how our worry thoughts and fears can really weigh us down and no matter how hard we try to run away from them, hide them, pretend they don’t exist etc, they aren’t going anywhere.

Until one day, Whimsy decides to share some with her best friend. Just a little bit at a time. Suddenly those worry thoughts and fears were more manageable, they were no longer preventing her from doing hard things. They were still a part of her, like worry thoughts are part of us all, BUT they weren’t holding her back any more.


I Am Courage: A Book of Resilience by Susan Verde & Peter Reynolds 

There are very few books that I think do a good job of illustrating resilience for children, this one is amazing. It takes you a journey of self-doubt and positive self-talk. It shows the importance of tackling challenges, one breath at a time. It talks about the importance of developing and listening to your inner-voice (your gut) and having it support you through your doubts, challenges and fears.


Brave Every Day Trudy Ludwig and Patrick Barton

This book is particularly helpful for the worrier headed to school. A child who is concerned about what will happen if they are asked to do things that challenge them or make them feel uncomfortable, like being called on to give an answer or not knowing who they will play with at recess.

It also makes the connection between worry/whatif thoughts and ‘I can’t’ feelings which lend themselves to scared feelings. As Camila gets more and more bogged down by her worries, she discovers a friend who also has some worry thoughts that are holding them back. To support her friend she has to dig inside and find some courage and bravery. In doing this she discovers by working together they can help each other with worries and whatifs.


Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival

Ruby goes on a journey of self-discovery. At first she finds a small worry, but as the days go on it grows and never goes away. It’s just stuck to her. She tried to pretend it away and that wasn’t helpful. As the worry grew it started to prevent her from doing things she enjoyed. It was holding her back. Then one day she noticed a little boy at the park who looked sad and she wondered if he too might have a worry. Until that point she thought she was the only person in the world that had them. By talking to the boy and discovering he had a worry too, hers started to get smaller. She realized everyone has worries and when you talk about them, they are easier to deal with.


Olivia Wrapped in Vines by Maude Nepveu-Villeneuve & Sandra Dumais

This is a really interesting book that explores how sometimes our worry and whatifs can feel like a vine growing all around us. They can feel prickly and pointy and prevent you from doing things when they are really strong. The character talks about the things that make her vines grow and how it can feel like nobody understands because nobody can see them but you.

One of the coolest aspects of this book is that it explores using visualization to cut down the vines in your mind. That the feelings themselves don’t disappear, but when we use different tools for them, they can be easier to manage.